M.E. Osuh1, G.A. Oke1 and M.C. Asuzu2
- Department of Periodontology and Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Ibadan.
- Department of Preventive Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of the Clinical Sciences, University of Ibadan.
Background: Regular utilization of dental services is key to the attainment of optimal oral health state, an integral component of general health and well being needed for effective productivity by working personnel.
Objective: This study assessed the rate and pattern of dental service utilization among civil servants and their attitudes towards its regular use.
Methodology: A multi-stage sampling technique was used to select participants from the Federal Secretariat in Ibadan, Nigeria. A structured, standardized, pretested and self-administered questionnaire was utilized to elicit responses on dental services and attitudes towards their regular utilization. Responses to knowledge and attitude questions were scored and categorized. Chi-squared test was used to test associations between variables at 5% level of significance.
Results: A total of 400 civil servants participated in the study. Their mean age was 44.0 ±7.3years. Many 291(72.8%) were well informed about dental health care and services, but few 156 (39%) had ever utilized it. Of the utilizers, 32 (20.5%) visited within the previous one year period, while others last visited in more than one year period. Few 17 (10.9%) of the utilizers visited for routine dental checks, 103 (66%) for acute pain relief, while the rest had other dental health care needs. The majority 312 (78.0%) showed positive attitude towards regular dental service utilization and this improved with higher educational attainment, improved level of income, being aware of dental services and having ever utilized it (all p<0.05).
Conclusion: Despite the awareness and positive attitude towards regular dental service use, their utilization rate was relatively low, episodic and problem driven. Appropriate oral health promotion strategies to enhance utilization of preventive dental services are strongly recommended for them.
Keywords: Dental services, Attitude, Utilization
Dr. Mary E Osuh
Community Dentistry Unit,
Dept. of Perio. and Comm. Dentistry.
The importance of oral health in relation to general well being of an individual cannot be over emphasized. Periodontal disease and dental caries are the commonest oral health problems experienced by the Nigerian population. Others include malocclusion, traumatized anterior teeth, dental fluorosis and oral tumours1.
Dental caries (tooth decay) especially when left untreated can lead to serious health problems which may affect the quality of life of an individual. Consequences of neglect of dental diseases may include absenteeism from school and work thus leading to reduced productivity. In the United States of America alone, oral health related illnesses were reported to be responsible for 6.1million days of admission related ill health, 12.7 million days of restricted activities and 20.5million workdays lost each year2. The sequelae of un-restored edentulous space resulting from pathologic exfoliation or extraction of teeth could have profound effect on individual’s self confidence. It may also affect the individual’s choice of food thereby leading to weight loss3 and also may affect speech – a social handicap related to communication4.
Maintaining good oral health from infancy to advanced old age is essential for overall well-being. Hence, the use of preventive dental health care services should be encouraged. The dental health professionals recommend a regular dental visit of once every 6 months, for maintenance of healthy gum and teeth5. Many oral diseases present with early signs that could only be recognized by the professionals if individuals presented early. Therefore with regular dental care, the possibility of keeping teeth throughout life is well within reach. Unfortunately previous studies conducted in countries such as Nigeria6-7, Burkina Faso8 and China9 all showed low utilization of dental services in their various reports. While “no perceived need” or “no serious dental problem” was common among reasons for non utilization in some of these reports8-9, emergency dental visits were the patterns reported among most of the utilizers 6-9. Problem driven dental visiting habits had resulted into unwanted outcomes such as various complications due to late presentation, limited treatment options and even affected treatment outcomes for some patients2, 10- 11.
Civil Servants constitute a major proportion of workforce in Nigeria. A wide range of professional and non-professional qualifications, educational attainments with various ethnic and religious backgrounds can be found within the civil service.
Therefore as a community of Nigerian workforce, information regarding dental health care and services among them may reveal the situation of the same in the larger community. The workers’ optimal oral health and wellbeing is integral to their optimal general health and well being and this translates to their economic productivity. There is need therefore, to ascertain their rate, pattern and attitude towards regular utilization of dental services as a baseline to plan appropriate oral health care intervention for them. More so, previous studies6-9 on utilization of dental services has focused on hospital outpatients and household surveys alone. Scarce information exists on this subject among Nigerian workers. Such gaps in knowledge when bridged may help to guide the content development of tailored public health programmes about the use of appropriate preventive dental health care services.